Herbal Medicine in Peru

December 13, 2011 by  
Filed under All, Global, Herbs, Science, Top Stories

Good news from a new article in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine: knowledge of local medicinal plants is still fairly strong even in a native community only 4 km from a city center and bisected by a highway. The majority of the population still relies exclusively on medicinal plants for self-medication.

In the community of Bajo Quimiriki, despite the vicinity to the city of Pichanaki, traditional plant knowledge has still a great importance in the daily life: 402 medicinal plants were indicated by the informants for the treatment of 155 different ailments and diseases.

Scientists interviewed Asháninka community members who recognized 402 medicinal plants and knew their uses. 84% were wild plants and 63% were collected from the forest. There were only 2% exotics. Knowledge of the plants was significantly correlated with age and gender, with women significantly outscoring men.

Women described a medicinal application in a higher number of [plants]: they scored a total of 310 record of use versus 206 total records of use by men.

Of the 72 plants that researchers had pre-marked, women described one or more medicinal use of 49.5%, while men did so in 26.6%. Unfortunately, the Asháninka language is vanishing, and most younger community members know only the Spanish names of their traditional plants.

The children of the community spend most of the day at school, where they are taught in Spanish. This decreases their chances to learn about the uses of the medicinal plants from the older people.

Among the most interesting discoveries is that plant use by the Peruvian native population correlated well with that of the Malinké of Mali, in West Africa. There is always a stronger likelihood that a benefit is real when widely dispersed populations use the same plant for similar conditions.

This is a fascinating study and the full text is available free of charge at the link.

Asháninka medicinal plants: a case study from the native community of Bajo Quimiriki, Junín, Peru. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010; 6 : 21.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2933607/

New Anti-malarials from Plants

October 29, 2011 by  
Filed under All, Global, Herbs, Science, Top Stories

Move over Artemisia (well, maybe). There are two new antimalarial plants in the news this year.

From Brazil, Caesalpinia pluviosa (stem bark) ethanol extract was effective against the two main strains of the malaria parasite.

It’s important that we continue to find new antimalarials because the parasite becomes resistant. The current main therapy is ACT (artemisinin-based combination treatment), introduced when the parasite became resistant to chloroquine, a quinine derivative. Now artemisinin resistance is becoming increasingly common and no new class of antimalarial has been introduced since 1996. The authors warn “the discovery of new potential anti-malarial compounds is urgently needed.”

Caesalpinia is a legume with numerous local medicinal uses, many of which have a rational basis. The plant is antiviral, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Apparently, it is also anti-malarial. In previous research, the crude extract proved inactive. The current research started in vitro testing various extracts against Plasmodium in glassware. Finding activity, research moved to in vivo research in infected mice. Chemical analysis showed that a new molecule, at first thought to be quercitin, appears to be the most active compound against malaria.

In the in vitro test, two fractions were significantly effective. The crude extract was not. In mice, the crude extract was somewhat effective, though not as effective against chloroquine resistant malaria. The ethanol extract was effective against both. What’s more, it was synergistic with the artemisinin based drug artesunate, so the two together are more effective than the combined effect of both. The plant extract alone was around 50% effective, artesunate around 60% and the combination around 80%.

The full article is HERE.

Halfway around the world, in Senegal, an ethnopharmacological survey pointed to the local medicinal plant Icacina senegalensis a native plant long used in Senegal to treat malaria. Crude extract and various fractions proved anti-plasmodial (Plasmodium is the malaria parasite) with no toxicity.

Astonishingly, this is the first time the plant has been tested, despite being the traditional remedy in perhaps the most mosquito infested and malaria afflicted part of West Africa. “This is the first scientific demonstration of the anti-plasmodial activity of I. senegalensis leaf extracts in a standard in vitro assay based on pLDH detection”

The crude methanol extract and fractions were tested for both effectiveness and toxicity (haemolytic effect). None of the extract fractions exhibited cytotoxicity to the limit of detection. By far the most effective fraction was the nonpolar (not water soluble) fraction of the methanol extract, with the polar fraction being the least effective.

It would be interesting to see how ethanol extracts fare, since methanol is toxic.

Full article is HERE.

Plants Against Liver Cancer

October 11, 2011 by  
Filed under All, Herbs, Natural Healthcare, Science, Top Stories

liver tumor pictureResearchers at Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy look at liver cancer and the remedies, natural and synthetic, that can prevent and treat it. The abstract sets up the need for this research:

Despite significant advances in medicine, liver cancer, predominantly hepatocellular carcinoma remains a major cause of death in the United States as well as the rest of the world. As limited treatment options are currently available to patients with liver cancer, novel preventive control and effective therapeutic approaches are considered to be reasonable and decisive measures to combat this disease. Several naturally occurring dietary and non-dietary phytochemicals have shown enormous potential in the prevention and treatment of several cancers, especially those of the gastrointestinal tract.

The article then descrive the largest group of phytochemicals used for medicine in India and China: terpenoids, some of which are currently in clinical trials as anticancer agents. Liver cancer is the fifth most common cancer and the third highest cause of cancer-related deaths in the world, with a five year survival rate below 9%. The incidence of liver cancer in the US has risen 70% in the last 25 years. The authors comment on treatment and prognosis:

HCC (hepatocellular carcinoma) prognosis remains dismal despite many treatment options. Overall, the cure rate among patients who undergo resection is not very high and for those patients who are not eligible for surgery or percutaneous procedures, only chemoembolization appears to improve survival…

Sorafenib, the only drug approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of advanced HCC, increases the median survival time by less than 3 mo[21]. However, this drug does not defer the symptomatic progression of the disease, costs about $5400 per month for treatment[22], and exhibits severe adverse effects, including a significant risk of bleeding[23]. These drawbacks necessitate the search for novel preventive and therapeutic approaches for this disease.

After a review of what terpenoids are and how they are used, the article looks at plants and plant compounds with anticancer effects. “Terpenoids have been found to be useful in the prevention and therapy of several diseases, including cancer, and also to have antimicrobial, antifungal, antiparasitic, antiviral, anti-allergenic, antispasmodic, antihyperglycemic, antiinflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties.”

In terms of anticancer properties the article points out that a large number of triterpenoids suppress the growth of many types of cancer cells “without exerting any toxicity in normal cells,” and that preclinical studies show triterpenoids have chemopreventive and therapeutic effects against colon, breast, prostate and skin cancer.

This is the first review we have found that focuses exclusively on liver cancer. Of the compounds under current study, these appear to be the most promising:

In vitro

The only monoterpene studied was geraniol, which inhibits the growth of liver cancer cells by inhibiting HMG-CoA.

The diterpene andrographolide from Andrographis paniculata inhibited growth by apoptosis (inducing “programmed cell death” in the tumor cells) and two other mechanisms. Two other diterpenes are discussed.

The largest number of compounds studied are the triterpenes, with many active compounds, including those from Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa), astragalus, Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica), Trichosanthes kirilowii, Aesculus (horse chestnut), Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum), Ginseng, Gynostemma, Bosewellia serrata, Aralia, Gentian and others.

The tetraterpenes are known as carotenoids and include the most common form of vitamin A (beta carotene) and astaxanthin, the compound that makes shrimp and salmon pink. Fukoxanthin, from seaweed, and lycopene from tomatoes also showed significant activity.

Sesquiterpenes
with anticancer activity in liver cells include bisabolol from chamomile and zerumbone from wild ginger.

In vivo

Animal studies for activity against liver cancer are much less common, despite promising results from in vitro studies. Of these, geraniol again showed the ability to suppress liver carcinogenesis and limonene showed efficacy against HCC. Andrographis had “potent antitumor activity” by oral administration. Bacoside A, from Bacopa monniera delayed development and growth of tumors, and cucurbitacin B reduced tumor volume and tumor growth. Escin (from horse chestnut) and ginseng reduced tumor growth, as did glycyrrhizin from licorice.

Several studies showed a lack of efficacy for triterpenes, so look at the original article for a balanced view. It’s available free, online, HERE.

World J Hepatol. 2011 September 27; 3(9): 228–249.

Flaxseed: a potential source of food, feed and fiber.

Flax seed has many potential health benefits.  The article below gives us some examples.

Flaxseed is one of the most important oilseed crops for industrial as well as food, feed, and fiber purposes. Almost every part of the flaxseed plant is utilized commercially, either directly or after processing. The stem yields good quality fiber having high strength and durability. The seed provides oil rich in omega-3, digestible proteins, and lignans. In addition to being one of the richest sources of α-linolenic acid oil and lignans, flaxseed is an essential source of high quality protein and soluble fiber and has considerable potential as a source of phenolic compounds. Flaxseed is emerging as an important functional food ingredient because of its rich contents of α-linolenic acid (ALA), lignans, and fiber. Lignans appear to be anti-carcinogenic compounds. The omega-3s and lignan phytoestrogens of flaxseed are in focus for their benefits for a wide range of health conditions and may possess chemo-protective properties in animals and humans. This paper presents a review of literature on the nutritional composition of flaxseed, its health benefits, and disease-prevention qualities, utilization of flaxseed for food, feed, and fiber, and processing of flaxseed.

What’s in a Name? Can Mullein Weed Beat TB Where Modern Drugs Are Failing?

August 15, 2011 by  
Filed under All, Herbs, Natural Healthcare, Science

This article outlines the history  of  Verbascum thapsus, mullien, and its potential benefits for use with tuberculosis.  For a link to read the complete article click on Verbascum thapsus.

Abstract

Common mullein weed (Verbascum thapsus ) has a large number of synonyms and old local “nick names” which connect the plant with mycobacteria. A strong history of medicinal use has been uncovered for the treatment of tuberculosis, tubercular skin disease, leprosy, and mycobacterial disease in animals. Here, we examine problems encountered in treating such diseases today, the historical and scientific links between mullein and pathogenic bacteria, and the possibility that this common weed could harbour the answer to beating one of the world’s biggest infectious killers.

Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011. pii: 239237. Epub 2010 Sep 19.

Medication safety series: take charge!

July 30, 2011 by  
Filed under All, Herbs, Natural Healthcare, Science

The following article states clearly the importance of making sure medications are taken with safety in mind.

Nurses have read the statistics on the numbers of prescription medications seniors take each day and the pitfalls and diverse problems that occur as a result. Various scenarios contribute to this problem: multiple healthcare providers prescribe medications; the use of over-the-counter products and herbs or alcohol cause medication interactions; and patients increase, decrease, skip, or repeat doses. When medications are not taken correctly, an increase in the number of physician or emergency department visits and hospitalizations results. Patients who come to a rehabilitation unit after joint replacement or hip-pinning surgery, stroke, or for treatment of other conditions may be prescribed medications that differ from the drugs they were taking at home. These patients and their families need to learn how to safely take their new medications. This presentation describes how five nurses developed a medication safety program consisting of four segments: Making Your Medication List; Talking to Your Healthcare Team About Your Medications; Safely Storing, Taking, and Destroying Your Medications; and Knowing the Difference Between Allergies, Side Effects, and Interactions. This article also describes the development of the script and PowerPoint program, lessons learned from the first presentation, and implications for rehabilitation nurses. The information presented in this series can help patients and families take charge of their medications. The team of community educators who wrote this article encourages the integration of this program into readers’ local patient communities because standards of care and resources vary in the communities that nurses serve.

Pharmacological Review on Centella asiatica: A Potential Herbal Cure-all.

When a study illustrates all healing aspects of an herb and calls it a “cure-all”, I feel it is worth a read.  Western herbalists have known the worth of Gotu Kola, Centella asiatica.  At the end of the abstract, I have attached a link to the complete study.

Abstract

In recent times, focus on plant research has increased all over the world. Centella asiatica is an important medicinal herb that is widely used in the orient and is becoming popular in the West. Triterpenoid, saponins, the primary constituents of Centellaasiatica are manly believed to be responsible for its wide therapeutic actions. Apart from wound healing, the herb is recommended for the treatment of various skin conditions such as leprosy, lupus, varicose ulcers, eczema, psoriasis, diarrhoea, fever, amenorrhea, diseases of the female genitourinary tract and also for relieving anxiety and improving cognition. The present review attempts to provide comprehensive information on pharmacology, mechanisms of action, various preclinical and clinical studies, safety precautions and current research prospects of the herb. At the same time, studies to evaluate the likelihood of interactions with drugs and herbs on simultaneous use, which is imperative for optimal and safe utilization of the herb, are discussed.

Indian J Pharm Sci. 2010 Sep;72(5):546-56.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3116297/?tool=pubmed

Repellent activity of catmint, Nepeta cataria, and iridoid nepetalactone isomers against Afro-tropical mosquitoes, ixodid ticks and red poultry mites.

There are many herbal alternatives to DEET.  This study shows how catnip, Napeta cataria, can be a beneficial ingredient to your natural insect repellent.

Abstract

The repellent activity of the essential oilof the catmint plant, Nepetacataria (Lamiaceae), and the main iridoid compounds (4aS,7S,7aR) and (4aS,7S,7aS)-nepetalactone, was assessed against (i) major Afro-tropical pathogen vector mosquitoes, i.e. the malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae s.s. and the Southern house mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus, using a World Health Organisation (WHO)-approved topical application bioassay (ii) the brown ear tick, Rhipicephalus appendiculatus, using a climbing repellency assay, and (iii) the red poultry mite, Dermanyssus gallinae, using field trapping experiments. Gas chromatography (GC) and coupled GC-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analysis of two N. cataria chemotypes (A and B) used in the repellency assays showed that (4aS,7S,7aR) and (4aS,7S,7aS)-nepetalactone were present in different proportions, with one of the oils (from chemotype A) being dominated by the (4aS,7S,7aR) isomer (91.95% by GC), and the other oil(from chemotype B) containing the two (4aS,7S,7aR) and (4aS,7S,7aS) isomers in 16.98% and 69.83% (by GC), respectively. The sesquiterpene hydrocarbon (E)-(1R,9S)-caryophyllene was identified as the only other major component in the oils (8.05% and 13.19% by GC, respectively). Using the topical application bioassay, the oils showed high repellent activity (chemotype A RD(50)=0.081 mg cm(-2) and chemotype B RD(50)=0.091 mg cm(-2)) for An. gambiae comparable with the synthetic repellent DEET (RD(50)=0.12 mg cm(-2)), whilst for Cx. quinquefasciatus, lower repellent activity was recorded (chemotype A RD(50)=0.34 mg cm(-2) and chemotype B RD(50)=0.074 mg cm(-2)). Further repellency testing against An. gambiae using the purified (4aS,7S,7aR) and (4aS,7S,7aS)-nepetalactone isomers revealed overall lower repellent activity, compared to the chemotype A and B oils. Testing of binary mixtures of the (4aS,7S,7aR) and (4aS,7S,7aS) isomers across a range of ratios, but all at the same overall dose (0.1 mg), revealed not only a synergistic effect between the two, but also a surprising ratio-dependent effect, with lower activity for the pure isomers and equivalent or near-equivalent mixtures, but higher activity for non-equivalent ratios. Furthermore, a binary mixture of (4aS,7S,7aR) and (4aS,7S,7aS) isomers, in a ratio equivalent to that found in chemotype B oil, was less repellent than the oilitself, when tested at two doses equivalent to 0.1 and 0.01 mg chemotype B oil. The three-component blend including (E)-(1R,9S)-caryophyllene at the level found in chemotype B oilhad the same activity as chemotype B oil. In a tick climbing repellency assay using R. appendiculatus, the oils showed high repellent activity comparable with data for other repellent essential oils (chemotype A RD(50)=0.005 mg and chemotype B RD(50)=0.0012 mg). In field trapping assays with D. gallinae, addition of the chemotype A and B oils, and a combination of the two, to traps pre-conditioned with D. gallinae, all resulted in a significant reduction of D. gallinae trap capture. In summary, these data suggest that although the nepetalactone isomers have the potential to be used in human and livestock protection against major pathogen vectors, intact, i.e. unfractionated, Nepetaspp. oils offer potentially greater protection, due to the presence of both nepetalactone isomers and other components such as (E)-(1R,9S)-caryophyllene.

Phytochemistry. 2011 Jan;72(1):109-14. Epub 2010 Nov 4.

Melatonin as a natural ally against oxidative stress: a physicochemical examination.

July 18, 2011 by  
Filed under All, Herbs, Natural Healthcare, Science

The following information gives us a clear understanding of the relationship of melatonin and oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress has been proven to be related to the onset of a large number of health disorders. This chemical stress is triggered by an excess of free radicals, which are generated in cells because of a wide variety of exogenous and endogenous processes. Therefore, finding strategies for efficiently detoxifying free radicals has become a subject of a great interest, from both an academic and practical points of view. Melatonin is a ubiquitous and versatile molecule that exhibits most of the desirable characteristics of a good antioxidant. The amount of data gathered so far regarding the protective action of melatonin against oxidative stress is overwhelming. However, rather little is known concerning the chemical mechanisms involved in this activity. This review summarizes the current progress in understanding the physicochemical insights related to the free radical-scavenging activity of melatonin. Thus far, there is a general agreement that electron transfer and hydrogen transfer are the main mechanisms involved in the reactions of melatonin with free radicals. However, the relative importance of other mechanisms is also analyzed. The chemical nature of the reacting free radical also has an influence on the relative importance of the different mechanisms of these reactions. Therefore, this point has also been discussed in detail in the current review. Based on the available data, it is concluded that melatonin efficiently protects against oxidative stress by a variety of mechanisms. Moreover, it is proposed that even though it has been referred to as the chemical expression of darkness, perhaps it could also be referred to as the chemical light of health.

Evaluation of the effect of Neptune Krill Oil on chronic inflammation and arthritic symptoms.

July 5, 2011 by  
Filed under All, Herbs, Natural Healthcare, Science

The following information clearly shows the benefits of taking krill oil for those with inflammatory conditions.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

a) To evaluate the effect of Neptune Krill Oil (NKO) on C-reactive protein (CRP) on patients with chronic inflammation and b) to evaluate the effectiveness of NKO on arthritic symptoms.

METHODS:

Randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study. Ninety patients were recruited with confirmed diagnosis of cardiovascular disease and/or rheumatoid arthritis and/or osteoarthritis and with increased levels of CRP (>1.0 mg/dl) upon three consecutive weekly blood analysis. Group A received NKO (300 mg daily) and Group B received a placebo. CRP and Western Ontario and McMaster Universities (WOMAC) osteoarthritis score were measured at baseline and days 7, 14 and 30.

RESULTS:

After 7 days of treatment NKO reduced CRP by 19.3% compared to an increase by 15.7% observed in the placebo group (p = 0.049). After 14 and 30 days of treatment NKO further decreased CRP by 29.7% and 30.9% respectively (p < 0.001). The CRP levels of the placebo group increased to 32.1% after 14 days and then decreased to 25.1% at day 30. The between group difference was statistically significant; p = 0.004 at day 14 and p = 0.008 at day 30. NKO showed a significant reduction in all three WOMAC scores. After 7 days of treatment, NKO reduced pain scores by 28.9% (p = 0.050), reduced stiffness by 20.3% (p = 0.001) and reduced functional impairment by 22.8% (p = 0.008).

CONCLUSION:

The results of the present study clearly indicate that NKO at a daily dose of 300 mg significantly inhibits inflammation and reduces arthritic symptoms within a short treatment period of 7 and 14 days.

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